SALES IS THE ART of bringing in new customers. New customers are the beating heart of every business while retention is the pulse that keeps the business going. Accepted sales theory suggests that for every customer you lose you must make a new sale to get you back to your previous sold volume in addition to making another sale to move you ahead. Sales theory is one thing but sales practices is the glue that holds things together. The word you are looking for is retention.
Retention is sales no matter how you look at it. If you have a poor retention rate that is in a continuing downward spiral you are not making sales. Your customers need to feel loved and valued in order to stay with you. Nary a business that does not have a competitor who is incapable of luring your customers into their fold. Any smart customer knows you need them more than they can ever need you.
A customer will become a customer if they feel a certain comfort level with you. It is no secret that you are far more likely to make a sale if the customer likes and trusts you. Making the customer feel as if they are electing to do business or buy from you as opposed to feel that you are “selling” them. You have to have a natural ability to sense when a customer is giving out signals that they are ready to buy from you. At that point you must close the deal right then and there.
Each product or service on the market today has its own sales cycle or window of opportunity that a sale must be consummated within. In the case of a new car dealership if the sale is not made on the spot the odds of that buyer even with the best follow-up methods in place are not overly favorable. If yours is a product that is price and service oriented equal importance must be attached to each. Prices will rise bringing the risk the customer will start shopping around. If there were any service related issues that may cement their decision to leave.
One key to retention is to have several lines of business with as many customers as possible. That customer who has entrusted you with more than one part or line of business with you is far less likely to leave you should a price “deviation” occur. Offer discounts and incentives wherever possible. Referral fees for bringing in new customers is a great way to make your customer feel as though they are partnering with you. Money brings money.
Service your customers. No matter how much or how little business a the customer must be serviced. A familiar (they want to speak to the person that sold them not some snotty CSR) friendly voice must be heard. If you only cater to your large accounts while marginally paying attention to the smaller ones a pattern will soon emerge that these small accounts will leave several at a time resulting in a overly stressed sales person who is too uptight to sell. Service your customers.
You have worked hard to get to the level you are at. Undoubtedly you experienced growing pains along the way as you refined your brand to the point that it was able to be put on the market. The market dictated (dictates) your pricing models but you have the ability to “trim the fat” to give that needed competitive edge.
How you maintain your competitive edge is what will determine your continued success or closing the shutters on the windows with an out of business sign tacked to them. Those organizations that have mastered the art of onboarding new customers while conducting routine maintenance on an existing base are the ones who keep afloat even in times of recessions.
The selling of retention is a more difficult sale than making a new one. Retention is usually only sold when there is a threat of defection. Through normal attrition you will lose businesses. Paying attention to retention turns a potential loss into a gain. If through your retention efforts you managed to keep the account going you have made one of your biggest sales.